I will never forget one of my first interviews. I was decked to the nines, my hair was in a perfect flip (if you know what a flip is, you're old), had researched the company and had my polished resume in hand.
My interview consisted of the owner of the company, the human resources person and other administrators. The interview was going great. I was making a point and pushed my index finger on the conference table. With this, my fake fingernail popped off and hit the owner in the cheek.
I did get the position; however, let this be a warning, make sure your fingernails don't pop off.
Today, in our more casually dressed workplace, appearance still counts a great deal with employers.
Too many people young and old alike have lost touch with what is appropriate business dress. Sloppy, sexy or wrinkled clothes have no place at work.
Dress well and be conservative. Skip the spandex, nose rings, blue hair, T-shirts, stilettos, jeans, micro-skirts, shorts or pajama bottoms. Yes, a candidate arrived to an interview with me in pajama bottoms. I asked her to reschedule when she could arrive in appropriate attire.
Another candidate arrived with a dog that he asked me to watch until he completed his application. I really liked the dog but didn't hire the owner. Expecting the employer to "accept you as you are" is a terrific attitude if you never want a promotion or hope that no one will ever hire you.
Here is a great website for what to wear: jobsearch. about.com/od/interviews networking/a/dressfor success.htm
Neatness is as important as appropriate attire. Shine your shoes; wear clean, pressed and well-fitting clothing. Hair should be clean and neat. Fingernails trimmed with no weird colors or decals. Use a natural makeup, and no cologne or after shave.
Show up a little early as you may be asked to complete an application even if you have sent a resume. Be sure to bring information with you that contains all of the addresses of past employers, references and dates of employment.
Turn off your cell phone before entering the office. The last thing you want to happen is to have your phone ring.
As soon as you arrive, introduce yourself stating who your appointment is with and the time. When you are introduced to the interviewer or multiple interviewers, state their name in your greeting and also as you depart. People love hearing their names, so be sure to remember and use them -sparingly (too much seems phony). Make absolutely sure you remember the interviewers' names as you will need them for your thank-you note.
A firm handshake while looking the other person in the eyes is considered a proper handshake. When a person uses this technique: they are saying "I can be trusted." An interesting note about handshakes: The history of the handshake is debatable. The most common belief is it comes from the time when people carried weapons. When greeting another person, one would grasp the forearms indicating they had no weapons in them. Gradually this practice became the handshake.
Meal interviews are standard operating procedure for some positions. And you are being tested on more than your table manners. It's a chance for the boss to observe your public behavior.
Treat wait staff with respect; don't order saucy pasta or messy ribs. Don't order alcohol even though you host does. Business shouldn't be discussed until your host brings it up, generally after the meal.
Hand-write your thank-you note. Typed notes or letters feel like office mail, and emails are discarded and forgotten almost immediately. A handwritten than-you note can tip the interview in your favor. Unless you have your own stationery, your note card should have a plain white or cream background with the words "Thank You" on the card's opening page in a professional style. Write a few lines, thanking the employer for the opportunity and reiterating a strength or two you would bring as a "valuable contributor to their team." Mail your notes within 24 hours of the meeting.
Remember in this depressed job market it has been reported that there are 12.5 million people unemployed. Businesses receive as many as 70 applicants for every job. Human resources directors say they spend one to two minutes reviewing a new resume. If crafted effectively, your resume is perhaps the most valuable marketing tool you've got as it gets you in the door. After that, use the tools above to knock their socks off. Happy job hunting.
Judi Hendrickson of Wheeling is the co-author with Dr. Jeanne Finstein of "Walking Pleasant Valley" and is working with Finstein on their second book, "Walking Woodsdale." She teaches etiquette and presents programs on Tea Time Traditions, the History and Etiquette of Tea and Wedding Traditions.